*This is the third in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*
I think fear is largely innate…and maybe that’s just my opinion because of the observations I’m about to share. But think about it…I don’t know anyone that was born fearless. I think facing and overcoming fears is a learned trait and one that everyone has to overcome in their lives at least once, or maybe over and over again until they see fear as a propeller towards growth rather than a paralysis mechanism.
Growing up, one of my biggest ‘innate’ fears was being alone and doing things alone (I touched on this in one of my last posts in this series). I firmly believe this innate fear for me is because I never had to do anything alone. I always had my sisters. We experienced every ‘first’ together during childhood and adolescence, for the most part. Moving away from the pack was unnatural for me and well, scary. Enter fear.
For me, fear meant being shy. It also meant sticking with the status quo. And that meant never sticking my neck out there or making decisions that were different from what my sisters did or different from what I was comfortable with. Enter comfort zone. See, fear and comfort zone are so closely tied together for me, it’s ridiculous. (and I realize that this isn’t a unique fear or finding…I am sure this may be more normal for many, but looking back at my patterns is really helping me continue to break out of comfort zones and unseat them more). And once I am stuck in my comfort zone, it’s really REALLY hard to climb out and decide to do something different.
While I’d love to say that my divorce helped me face fears more than anything else, that wasn’t a decision…it was forced upon me to cope with. That first year of separation and living alone and facing all sorts of fears was not by choice, it was not something I ever would have done on my own. And not to diss my own growth or discount what I went through, facing fears during that time was involuntary…but looking back, it really made me realize just how many fears I had and how many were so deeply seated. Living alone. BEING alone. Doing things independently. Taking chances, risks, trying new things. All foreign concepts to me. So while I faced my fears during this time, what I faced more was just how comfortable I’d gotten in my little nook of comfort and how little I was actually growing. I think fear, fear of change, routine and being in a comfort zone were contributing factors to my divorce, unbeknownst to me until…now. I firmly see that more than I ever did before. And it makes me more thankful for where I am today in my life.
I think that the ultimate change for me, in facing my fears head-on rather than pushing them aside for sake of the status quo and comfort zone, was starting my job. And not just any job. But a job halfway across the country. A job that would force me to be more verbal, present myself more confidently, and prove myself. A job that would also allow me to hone the skills I’d cultivated for the past 8 years at my previous job (8 years PLUS…talk about comfort zones!!) and learn new ones. Teach myself more about the areas I consider myself weak in. ASK QUESTIONS. <<-for some reason, I have always been afraid of asking questions for fear of sounding stupid…but ya know what? if I don’t ask the question and try to fake it, that usually backfires more than just asking the damn question. Truth. A lesson I learn all the time, over and over again.
Taking this job was sort of the seachange moment for me…where things all of a sudden felt just a little bit less scary. Traveling alone. Being alone. Standing up in front of people alone. (notice a theme here…being ALONE!). alonealonealone. This is what has allowed me to face my fears. Doing it by myself. Alone. Sometimes because I have to, but other times because I choose to.
And on days where I feel that shyness creeping back up (today, for example, as I face a few meetings and things I need to do on my own as my boss is on vacation…it’s those fearful moments I had for almost the entire three-month maternity leave she had, where I was forced to ACT and BE and DO…but I did it then, and I can do it now, right?!), and that fear driving me away from what I need to do, instead of towards it, I am going to harness the fear for good and ACT and BE and DO all over again.
Because that’s how I roll now…I face fear. I use it to motivate, not paralyze. It’s an everyday process and an everyday learning cycle for me, but for me, facing fears has been more rewarding than almost anything I can think of to equate it to.
How about you? Are you good at facing fears? Do you instinctively shy away from it? What have you learned from your own patterns when it comes to fear?